When “Harder” is Better

Jon and Shae’s son Andersen experienced a miracle. Andersen, who was adopted domestically, has experienced both deep pain and deep healing during his little life. Shae observed about his short experience here on earth, “We have had the opportunity to see the most incredible miracles over, and over, and over again. God’s mercy never runs out.”  

Andersen was adopted domestically after he had received a diagnosis of Down syndrome. At that point, Jon and Shae had three other kids–Elsie, Thiess, and Redding, who was also adopted. When Redding was one year old, the family knew they wanted to adopt again. This time, they felt called and equipped to pursue a child with Down syndrome. They filled out the paperwork and originally only applied to adopt girls. Then Jon and Shae came across Andersen’s case on the day of their wedding anniversary. Shae received a call accepting their application to adopt Andersen a mere four days after they applied. 

Jon and Shae felt confident about adopting a child with Down syndrome. Jon said, “We went into this not fully knowing how grand and big the community is of people with Down syndrome. One of the biggest things I’ve learned through this is (that) he doesn’t need me to do things for him, he needs me to do things with him.”  

Andersen’s first Christmas season should have been a jolly time, but the family spent it concerned for his life. Andersen developed an infection that led doctors to tell his parents that he either had cancer or a rare and fatal blood disorder.  

Shae reflected on one specific night in the hospital when Andersen was extremely sick and “inconsolable.” She came to the realization that she had to surrender control over her son’s life to the Lord. Shae remembered her experience: “I started praying and praying that God’s will would be done, whether truly on earth as it is in heaven, and knowing that, in that moment, God will give us his best.” She looks back on that formative experience often as she learned that it is better as their mom to “hope for heaven more deeply for each of my kids.”  

It turns out, neither of those serious diagnoses were a reality for Andersen, and “we don’t know why, other than God healed him from those things. The doctors still don’t know why,” explained Jon. Andersen’s healing was a miracle in the truest sense of the word.  

“We’ve shed a lot of tears for him, but God counts all our tears,” Shae recounted of their health scares with Andersen. Because of what this family has gone through together, they have experienced more difficulty and more joy than they could have ever expected. Amidst the hard, they explain that their faith has deepened, their family has grown closer, and they would not want to go back: “For every bit of ‘harder’ we’ve had, it’s been ten times better.” 

Shae summarized their journey when she said, “Special needs adoption is hard. Everything about our lives has changed. But, at the end of the day, aren’t the hardest things more worth it, though?”